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Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Rachelle Horowitz

  • National Democratic Institute: Board of Directors, Former Vice Chair
  • Social Democrats-USA: Former Member

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Rachelle Horowitz is a longtime political activist who is perhaps best known for her role in helping organize the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, a landmark 1963 civil rights demonstration.[1] Then a member of the Young People’s Socialist League, Horowitz later went on to serve as the political director for the American Federation of Teachers. Horowitz has also served on the board of directors of the National Democratic Institute (NDI), a program of the National Endowment for Democracy that is affiliated with the Democratic Party.[2]

Horowitz remained active in democratic socialist politics long after the march, but drifted steadily toward the faction’s hawkish anticommunist wing during the Cold War. The spouse of the anticommunist former AFL-CIO president Thomas R. Donahue, Horowitz was at one time a leader of the hawkish wing of the Socialist Party USA that splintered off from the party in 1972 to become Social Democrats-USA. SD-USA members followed a similar trajectory of the early neoconservatives, gradually abandoning their leftist ideas to embrace the hawkish wing of the Democratic Party led by Sen. Henry “Scoop” Jackson, with many then going on to form an integral part of the right-wing structure that matured during the Ronald Reagan presidency. The party eventually dissolved in 2005 after the death of Penn Kemble.

Many members of the group were outspoken supporter of George W. Bush’s Middle East policies. In a 2005 profile of Tom Kahn, a fellow social democrat with whom Horowitz had long worked and who passed away in 1992, Horowitz hinted at her own views of the Bush administration’s Middle East policies by imagining what Kahn’s would have been. “I am sure I know what Kahn would be saying and doing if he were alive today,” Horowitz wrote. “He would have supported the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. He would not have needed to know about weapons of mass destruction or ‘imminent threats’ to do that. And as soon as it was possible, he would have gone himself or sent someone into Iraq to find anti-Ba’ath Party trade unionists to support.” Nonetheless, Horowitz noted, Kahn (and presumably Horowitz herself) “would also be the most severe critic of George W. Bush's domestic policy and its go-it-alone international policies.”[3]

Despite the tendency of many observers to associate SD-USA with neo-conservatism, significant differences remained between the two ideological camps.[4] According to Horowitz, hawkish social democrats could be distinguished from neoconservatives by their “belief in the bottom-up fight for democracy and the importance of working-class action,” as well as their “refusal to abandon friends or principles because of realpolitik.”[5]

During a SD-USA-sponsored conference that was held soon after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, many of the attendees—including Horowitz—took exception to the views espoused by former American Enterprise Institute fellow Joshua Muravchik, an erstwhile Socialist Party member who had by then become a vocal neoconservative. In an article about the conference, Joshua Micah Marshall wrote that Muravchik welcomed social democrats who supported the U.S. war in Iraq to “our side” in the fight against “evil.” Horowitz, wrote Marshall, “another Social Democrats, USA, luminary and an event organizer, called Muravchik's comments ‘profoundly disturbing’—both his use of ‘us and them’ rhetoric and the term ‘evil.’ The existence of evil in the world was something Horowitz was happy to concede, she said from the floor. But it was a word incapable of clear political definition and thus a producer of muddle rather than clarity, zeal rather than political action.”[6]

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Sources

[1] Harold Meyerson, “The Socialists Who Made the March on Washington,” American Prospect, August 23, 2013, http://prospect.org/article/socialists-who-made-march-washington.

[2] NDI, Rachelle Horowitz bio, http://www.ndi.org/horowitzr.

[3] Rachelle Horowitz, “Tom Kahn and the Fight for Democracy: A Political Portrait and Personal Recollection,” Democratiya, Winter 2007, http://web.archive.org/web/20100620225330/http://dissentmagazine.org/democratiya/article_pdfs/d11Horowitz.pdf.

[4] Joshua Micah Marshall, “Debs’s Heirs Reassemble To Seek Renewed Role as Hawks of Left,” Articles and reactions, May 22 2003, Forward, http://forward.com/articles/8856/debs-s-heirs-reassemble-to-seek-renewed-role-as/.

[5] Rachelle Horowitz, “Tom Kahn and the Fight for Democracy: A Political Portrait and Personal Recollection,” Democratiya, Winter 2007, http://web.archive.org/web/20100620225330/http://dissentmagazine.org/democratiya/article_pdfs/d11Horowitz.pdf.

[6] Joshua Micah Marshall, “Debs’s Heirs Reassemble To Seek Renewed Role as Hawks of Left,” Articles and reactions, May 22 2003, Forward, http://forward.com/articles/8856/debs-s-heirs-reassemble-to-seek-renewed-role-as/.

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Rachelle Horowitz Résumé

Affiliations

  • National Democratic Institute: Board of Directors, Former Vice Chair
  • Social Democrats-USA: Former Member
  • Committee on the Present Danger: Member
  • American Federation of Teachers: Former Political Director
  • League for Industrial Democracy: Former Board Member 

Related:

Rachelle Horowitz News Feed

5 faces of the March on Washington - CNNTulane University announces graduates receiving degrees Saturday - The AdvocateThe FBI Plot to Bring Down the Gay Man Behind the March on Washington - OZYThe Socialists Who Made the March on Washington - The American ProspectFor a SNCC member, Aug. 28, 1963 was a day of joy, anger and hope - Washington PostPacifism or self-defense? The backstory of a famous debate between two towering civil rights figures. - Washington PostChanges at D.C. Equinox leave older members angry - Washington Post'A People's History' Of The March On Washington - NPRThe Dating Scene? Hip, With a Bit of ‘Minnesota Nice’ - New York TimesIn March on Washington, white activists were largely overlooked but strategically essential - Washington PostThe work, in progress | The Washington Post - Washington PostBayard Rustin, organizer of the March on Washington, was crucial to the movement - Washington PostLaw Journal Announces 2019 Professional Excellence Honorees | New Jersey Law Journal - Law.comAnalysis | The Daily 202: Stacey Abrams isn't the future of the Democratic Party. She's the present. - The Washington PostAnalysis | The Daily 202: N.H. congressional primary tests the prowess of the Democratic establishment as 2020 approaches - The Washington PostBenny & Joon Star Paolo Montalban's 10 Favorite Theatregoing Experiences - Playbill.comKennedy White House had jitters ahead of 1963 March on Washington - fox13now.comWe Were There: The March on Washington – An Oral History Debuts Friday, August 23 at 10:00pm ET/PT - CNNFinding, Then Filming, The Young All-Female Crew In 'Skate Kitchen' - NPRWashington pays tribute to Bayard Rustin's legacy - AFT - A Union of Professionals

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